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Müller was one of the first British artists to go to Egypt, travelling there in 1838–9. He wrote that ‘of all the spots I had ever seen for the artist’ this sort of street scene ‘would prove the most fertile for his pencil’.

The Islamic world had long fascinated Western audiences, though they had generally been satisfied with recycled fantasies. Müller’s sketch represents a new, eye-witness approach. By the late 1830s biblical archaeology, and an escalation of European diplomatic and military activity in the area, fuelled demand for more convincing documentary images of the Middle East.

September 2004